A horrifying glimpse of the decades-long nightmare still afflicting the people of Iran.

LETTERS TO MY TORTURER

LOVE, REVOLUTION, AND IMPRISONMENT IN KHOMEINI’S IRAN

A harrowing memoir of imprisonment and torture under the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a little boy, Asadi kissed the hand of the Ayatollah Khomeini, just prior to the cleric’s exile from Iran. Khomeini returned in 1979, as leader of a revolution Asadi vigorously supported. By then this thoroughly secular intellectual had already been imprisoned three times for political agitation against the Shah. During one stretch, Asadi, a navy veteran and trained journalist, formed a jailhouse friendship with the deeply religious Ali Khamenei, who would later become the country’s Supreme Leader. Asadi taught his cellmate how to interpret newspaper content and how to read “between the lines.” Seeking to consolidate their power, the religious fundamentalists who ran the regime incarcerated thousands, accusing them of plotting against the revolution. In 27 chapters, each styled as an epistle to his torturer, Brother Hamid, who later became an ambassador for Iran, Asadi recounts his life, his political disillusionment and especially the unspeakable mental, spiritual and physical scarring he suffered in Tehran’s Moshtarak and Evin prisons. Living among rats and cockroaches, forced to wear a blindfold in his captors’ presence, Asadi was ordered to walk on all fours, to bark like a dog and to eat his own excrement. Suffering from broken teeth, chronic headaches, shoulder pain (from being strung up) and regular bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, and beaten regularly on the soles of his feet, he attempted suicide at least twice. After supplying under brutal duress the “confession” to spying his tormentors required, he barely avoided execution and was finally released in 1989. With moving stories about fellow prisoners, biting commentary on the religious dictates imposed by his jailers and meditations on the soul-destroying effect of false confessions and the special cruelty of his ideological, authoritarian interrogators, Asadi’s simple prose attracts even as the facts he reports repel. A trip to Moscow in 1980 had already soured him on communism. Six years in prison turned him against the fanatics his wife once described as “the sandals of despotism.” Now in exile in Paris, he has rejected politics entirely, declaring, “I…freed myself from myself.”

A horrifying glimpse of the decades-long nightmare still afflicting the people of Iran.

Pub Date: June 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-85168-750-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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